Destination Barcelona now boasts over 1,000 companies holding Biosphere tourism sustainability certification

Destination Barcelona boasts the highest number of certified sustainable tourism establishments in the European Union, over 1,000. This is reflected in the EU's own Environmental Labels and Schemes indicator.

16/02/2024 - 15:13 h - City Council Ajuntament de Barcelona

On Friday, Barcelona hosted an event to award the latest Biosphere certifications, as part of the Barcelona Biosphere Tourism Sustainability Commitment recognising good practices in sustainable management among tourism and service businesses. A total of 487 entities in the city of Barcelona received the diploma with the seal accrediting their commitment to environmentally respectful management, cultural preservation and the social and economic advancement of the city. The event took place at the Disseny Hub Barcelona and was presided over by the Deputy Mayor for Economy, Finance, Economic Promotion, and Tourism, Jordi Valls, along with the Director General of the Barcelona Tourist Consortium, Mateu Hernández, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Salvador Vendrell.

In Destination Barcelona itself, which includes the city and 12 regions within the province, a total of 1,043 companies and entities have been certified with the Barcelona Biosphere Tourism Sustainability Commitment. The project, driven by Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Barcelona Provincial Council and the Barcelona Tourist Consortium, aims to advance sustainability in tourism and the sector, in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda. In other words, the commitment addresses both the desire of tourism operators to promote more responsible tourism and the wishes of visitors to travel while fully respecting the environment.

In total, out of the 487 Biosphere-certified businesses in the city of Barcelona, the largest percentage corresponds to accommodation establishments (46.9%), followed by travel agencies (10.4%), restaurants (9.9%), Commerce and MICE (9.4% each).

Barcelona, European leader in sustainable accommodation

Destination Barcelona boasts the highest number of certified sustainable tourism establishments in the European Union (EU). This is reflected in the Environmental Labels and Schemes indicator, established by the EU itself, which specifically indicates the number of accommodation establishments per destination that have demonstrated sustainable practices, publicly recognising them with an international certificate. Barcelona province leads the index by a wide margin with 238 points, ahead of Stockholm with 134 points, Amsterdam with 95 points, the Greek island of Kalymnos with 83 points, and Vienna with 74 points. 

Destination Barcelona, encompassing not only the city of Barcelona but also the three tourist brands of the province (Costa Barcelona, Paisatges Barcelona, and Pirineus Barcelona), is also the only destination in the world certified with the Biosphere Platinum seal. This recognition is attributed to the continuous commitment to sustainability, exemplified by the fact that the city of Barcelona became the first urban destination in the world to achieve Biosphere certification, as early as 2011.

Certification and drought

Companies certified with the Biosphere seal commit to a minimum of three improvement actions a year, such as recycling greywater for irrigating parks and gardens, installing water-saving taps, showers and toilets, installing infrared-activated automatic taps, implementing daily monitoring systems for energy and water consumption, exploring alternatives to natural grass, replacing cooling towers with closed-loop secondary systems, or fitting pools with water recirculation systems.

Amid the ongoing drought emergency, certain actions have notably contributed to reducing water consumption. For instance, Hotel Alimara obtained the new Biosphere certification after replacing natural vegetation with artificial landscaping. The Hilton Diagonal Barcelona hotel obtained it after introducing salt water instead of chlorinated water in its pool, a practice that makes it more sustainable in terms of consumption. Salt water has a longer lifespan, requires fewer refills than traditional pools and also reduces the need for chemical products and maintenance. Also in terms of water management, one of the establishments that has also obtained certification this year is the hostel St. Christopher’s Inn Barcelona. This is thanks to the implementation of a system for the recovery and purification of greywater, mainly from showers and sinks, which is then reused for cleaning tasks and flushing toilets. Also of note is the ‘4-minute challenge’ initiative by Yurbban hotels, which challenges guests to take their showers within this time frame. A significant figure, given that every minute of showering consumes 20 litres of water. The Yurbban is therefore aiming to reduce consumption to 80 litres per shower, a quantity that those responsible for the initiative consider more than sufficient to ensure personal hygiene.

Highest growth among restaurants and shops

The businesses and entities in which Biosphere certification has increased the most this year in the city of Barcelona are restaurants and shops. Specifically, the number of certified restaurants has doubled in two years, reaching the current total of 40. Indeed, the Barcelona Tourist Consortium has initiated a project in conjunction with VISA and the Barcelona Restaurateurs’ Guild to make significant progress in certification among restaurants. This initiative aims to address the challenge of sustainability, align them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and meet the demands of visitors to Barcelona in terms of tourism quality standards.

Prominent names among the 387 organisations renewing their certification include Futbol Club Barcelona, the Barcelona Convention Bureau, Casa Vicens, La Llotja de Mar, Disseny Hub Barcelona and the Museu Picasso Foundation. Among the 100 new businesses joining the sustainability project are hotels such as Room Mate and Alimara, the Laie bookstore, the University School of Public Relations, Tibidabo amusement park and La Mallorquina textile retail company.

Notably in Barcelona, certification entails no cost for the company, as it is fully subsidised by the tax on stays in tourist establishments (IETT). This same mechanism covers the renewal costs in subsequent years if the necessary standards are maintained.

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